Praise, optimism, derision: reaction to Trump-Kim summit from around the globe

Donald Trump, who has upended traditions in just 18 months on the job, became the first sitting U.S. president to meet with the head of state for North Korea on Tuesday in Singapore, provoking no shortage of reactions.

North Korea patron China seems eager to ease sanctions, while Iran says the U.S. can't keep its word

A South Korean man watches on television screens reporting on U.S. President Donald Trump's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at an electronics retail store on in Seoul. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Donald Trump, who has upended traditions in  just 18 months on the job, became the first sitting U.S. president to meet with the head of state for North Korea on Tuesday in Singapore.

In a document signed with great fanfare by Trump and Kim in Singapore, Kim committed to the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

Trump gushed that the pair developed chemistry quickly and that the two sides were "much further along than I would have thought." The U.S. has agreed to stop joint military exercises with South Korea for the foreseeable future but it was not immediately clear that its ally was aware that such an announcement would be made.

A statement from South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the Trump-Kim summit was a "huge step forward" that opened a new era of peace and co-operation. But Seoul's presidential office told the Associated Press that it was trying to discern the exact meaning and intent of Trump's comments.

President Donald Trump answers questions about his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.


3 years ago
:The President gave a press conference about his meeting with the North Korean leader calling him "very talented" 3:15

Reaction to the unprecedented summit around the world has been swift and run the gamut.

Sung-Yoon Lee, professor in Korean Studies at Tufts University's law school, told CBC News that it's really nothing that hasn't been seen before in the nearly three decades that the U.S. has been negotiating with North Korea as it has built up its arsenal, first with Kim Jong-il and now his son.

"President Trump has said himself repeatedly that previous administrations have been played by North Korea," said Lee. "I don't see any supporting evidence to point to the contrary in the case of President Trump himself."

Lee said it was a way for North Korea to ease sanctions that have been applied in the wake of its testing of ballistic missiles the past two years.

"For now there is, I guess, the illusion of rapprochement, there is the optimism that peace of our time is near and South Korea and China will be delighted now to be able to resume subsidization of North Korea, giving North Korea in the case of the South about a billion dollars a year that South Korea used to, in the case of China, $1.5 billion a year," said Lee, speaking from Burlington, Mass. "So this is all a very good arrangement for North Korea."

Korean studies professor skeptical of Trump-Kim deal


3 years ago
'There is nothing really new in this, only compromises,' says Prof. Sung-Yoon Lee of Tufts University 5:21

Calling it a "Pyongyang Ponzi scheme," Lee said the Kim family dynasty "have been doing this, deceiving the world repeatedly and reaping billions of dollars in concessions."

'Creating a new history': China praiseful

China, in fact, quickly reacted to the talks on Tuesday by suggesting that the UN Security Council consider suspending or lifting sanctions against North Korea if the country is in compliance with UN resolutions and making progress in diplomatic negotiations.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the Security Council's sanctions against North Korea were designed to be adjusted and could be suspended or lifted in accordance with the North's actions.

China, North Korea's main ally, accounts for more than 90 per cent of the isolated country's trade, and China's participation is widely seen as crucial for international sanctions to have any bite.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi was effusive about the Trump-Kim summit.

"The United States and North Korea have been in a state of antagonism for more than half a century," Yi said. "Today, that the two countries' highest leaders can sit together and have equal talks has important and positive meaning, and is creating a new history."

Japan, which has seen North Korean missiles breach its airspace, reacted positively to the summit. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seen Tuesday in Tokyo, also thanked Trump for bringing up the issue of Japanese abductees. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacted positively and welcomed Kim's written commitment to complete denuclearization. Abe, who spoke to Trump by phone after the proceedings, said he thanked the president for bringing up the issue of Japanese abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, many of whom were used as spies for the regime.

Abe said "Japan will deal firmly with North Korea face-to-face" to resolve the abduction issue.

Russia, like China, has supported North Korea through the years and is less keen on applying sanctions.

"The mere fact of the meeting between the leaders of the United States and North Korea is positive ... We are following the comments that both sides are making but we have not seen the document yet, we'll see," Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying in state media.

Lavrov's diplomacy was countered by the more blunt assessment on social media of Konstantin Kosachev, chairman
of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russia's parliament.

"Trump's words that the process of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula will start 'very, very soon' is more of a wish than a fact," Kosachev wrote on his Facebook page.

Iran, as could be expected, reacted sharply to the summit, having seen Trump recently announce he had no intention of honouring a 2015 multilateral nuclear pact brokered by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

"We are facing a man who revokes his signature while abroad," said government spokesperson Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Trudeau responds to Trump's comments


3 years ago
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds after Trump criticized him during a news conference in Singapore Tuesday. 0:20

In the U.S., 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders referring to Trump's rancorous appearance at the recent Group of Seven talks in Quebec, stated on social media ahead of the summit: "I find it very strange that President Trump has such a hard time getting along with the leaders of the world's major democracies, but feels very comfortable with despots and authoritarian leaders."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who bore the brunt of a Trump tirade on social media on trade after the G7 summit, as well as attacks from the president's surrogates on U.S. political talk shows, responded briefly Tuesday to a question in Ottawa about the summit.

"Obviously we support the continuing efforts by the president on North Korea," said Trudeau. "We look forward to looking at the details of the agreement." 

U.S. conservatives mixed on summit success

On Fox News in the U.S., hosts and contributors generally lavished praise on Trump in a way that may have unthinkable had Obama met with Kim.

"There's no down side as far as I'm concerned. It's only a win-win," said Fox News host Sean Hannity, who scored the first interview with the president after the summit and has spent several months attacking the special counsel probe looking into Trump's campaign and transition team contacts with Russia.

Several Fox contributors did allow that ultimately the "devil was in the details" going forward.

Steve Schmidt, a Republican who ran John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, perhaps had Hannity in mind when he blasted the "delusional" early assessments from "Trump media."

Richard Haass, who served in four presidential administrations and is now head of the Council of Foreign Relations, was more tempered, but critical nonetheless.

Bruce Klingner, who also served in both Republican and Democratic administrations and was once the chief of the CIA's Korea division, said the document doesn't even go as far as previous agreements the U.S. has negotiated with North Korea in the past quarter century.

Jung Pak, chair in Korean studies for the Brookings Institute think-tank, alluded to the spectacle of the summit with a pithy reading of the event: "So far this seems like empty calories, but where is the beef? I guess we have to tune in for the next episode."

Tensions and concerns ran high ahead of the summit.

South Korean President Moon said he "could hardly sleep last night" in anticipation of the meeting.

Meanwhile, T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire energy magnate and Republican donor, hoped ahead of the talks that the American side would be cautious in its approach.

With files from Associated Press


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?